- Commended, New York Times Notable Books
- Commended, Huffington Post Best Books
- Long-listed, ReLit Awards: Novel
A New York Times Notable Book and Huffington Post Best Book
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Middle Stories and Ticknor comes a bold interrogation into the possibility of a beautiful life. How Should a Person Be? is a novel of many identities: an autobiography of the mind, a postmodern self-help book, and a fictionalized portrait of the artist as a young woman - of two such artists, in fact.
For reasons multiple and mysterious, Sheila finds herself in a quandary of self-doubt, questioning how a person should be in the world. Inspired by her friend Margaux, a painter, and her seemingly untortured ability to live and create, Sheila casts Margaux as material, embarking on a series of recordings in which nothing is too personal, too ugly, or too banal to be turned into art. Along the way, Sheila confronts a cast of painters who are equally blocked in an age in which the blow job is the ultimate art form. She begins questioning her desire to be Important, her quest to be both a leader and a pupil, and her unwillingness to sacrifice herself.
Searching, uncompromising and yet mordantly funny, How Should a Person Be? is a brilliant portrait of art-making and friendship from the psychic underground of Canada's most fiercely original writer. This edition features new and expanded content.close this panel
Sheila Heti is the acclaimed author of the novel How Should a Person Be?, the story collection The Middle Stories, which was published in Germany, France, The Netherlands, the United States, and Spain, and the novel Ticknor, which was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award. Her writing has appeared in various literary anthologies and in several US and Canadian publications, including New York Times Magazine, Esquire, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and Brick. Heti is also the creator of the popular Toronto and New York-based lecture series, Trampoline Hall. Sheila Heti lives in Toronto.close this panel
This is a novel that abounds with [...] wisdom, arrived at in fresh and new ways. For all its inventiveness, there is an old-fashioned integrity, an attention to thought in the prose, resulting in unusual and sharp-eyed observations . . . we are treated to some truly profound ruminations on what it means to be an artist in our indifferent era.
... brilliant, forthright and sometimes very funny ...
[Sheila Heti is] a brilliant, original thinker and an engaging writer.
... what Heti's brain and fingertips offer are expanded possibilities for what the novel can be and can become ... How Should a Person Be? makes curious and combative company.
... bound to be quoted over and over ... Sheila Heti does know something about how many of us, right now, experience the world, and she has gotten that knowledge down on paper, in a form unlike any other novel I can think of.
[Heti's] book has a freshness and verve that make you wonder where she will go next.
...a self-conscious, darkly funny exploration of the strained complexities of female friendship, the makings of bad art, and the finer points of awkward sex...[Heti] celebrates the extraordinary imperfection in ordinary life.
[I'm] in awe of this new Toronto writer who seems to be channeling Henry Miller one minute and Joan Didion the next.
... one of the bravest, strangest, most original novels I've read this year.
...an unforgettable book: intellectually exacting, unsettling in its fragility, bodily as anything painted by Freud,experimental yet crafted as hell, and yes, very funny.
Original, contemplative, and often tangential, this is an unorthodox compilation of colorful characters, friendship, and sex that provides an unusual answer to Heti's question.
Sheila Heti's vaguely autobiographical new novel might make her the Joan Didion of the 'Girls' generation.
...the good kind of genre muddle...How Should a Person Be? emerges as part of an entirely different genre: the realistic self-help book. You might not want to follow in Sheila's footsteps, but tagging along on her quixotic mission will be as useful as anything else you're likely to read this year.
...a portrait of the artist as a young woman, a postmodern self-help book and an autobiography of the mind.
... vital and funny ...
How Should a Person Be? reveals a talented young voice of a still inchoate generation.
From pithy quotables ('Night fell, but then, there are always holes to fall into,') to the oddly profound ('If now in some ways I drink too much, it's not that I lack a reverence for the world'), this is a novel that rewards reading, sitting with, and rereading.
Heti flails out in all directions, employing a winsome flexibility and an underlying sadness that deflates any pretension and focuses on the big questions of life. The exuberance of youth is shot through with magic threads of wisdom.
Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more -- it's one wild ride. The upfront and unabashed sex makes for a voyeuristic, sometimes hilarious, read. Think HBO's Girls in book form.
... boldly original ... [Heti] writes cinematically, but with the cockeyed emotional realism of filmmakers like Miranda July and Lena Dunham.
This is a novel that wonders if the ugly can be beautiful, if there is clarity to be found in the drifting.